According to city officials, the Hoboken students, who are now in high school or will be entering high school next year, will earn minimum wage, $5.15 an hour, working up to 10 hours a week in the Department of Recreation, where they will be assisting in operation of the city's summer recreation program.
"We are committed to hiring young people from our area for the summer," said City Council president Ruben Ramos Jr., who was one of the program's founders last year. "These teens will develop a sense of responsibility and will learn what is expected of them in the work place."
Ramos, who himself grew up in the city's subsidized housing projects, added that Hoboken's teen job program is modeled after the federal Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) program of the mid- and late-1970s that provided job opportunities and training, particularly for teenagers from low-income families. Locally, Union City, currently has a similar program that puts teens to work.
The total budget for the program in Hoboken is about $20,000, and has already been approved and fully funded by the City Council, with the support of the mayor, said city Business Administrator Robert Drasheff.
Fourth Ward Councilman Christopher Campos added summer is a dangerous time for teens so it's important that they spend their time productively. "Idle hands are the devils playground," said Campos. "For many of the students this program will be their first exposure to the type of work ethic that will be required when they enter the real world."
At the program's kick-off meeting, held Wednesday, Mayor David Roberts said that he fully supports the second year program. "A teen's first job is important step in their maturation," said Roberts. He added that summer jobs give teens a jump-start on lessons and skills they'll need when they join the workforce.
More than jobs
Also helping to coordinate the program are officials from the Hoboken Housing Authority. Every day, after the teens' shifts are finished, the participants who live in the Housing Authority are invited to attend the Crossfire Teen Group, an afternoon school program in the Housing Authority.
When students aren't working, according to Ramos, they spend several hours each weekday to learn lessons about pressing teen topics such as drug abuse, peer pressure, teen sex, smoking, and teen pregnancy. The group often has speakers and open discussions about the difficult issues teens often face daily.
According Housing Authority officials, in addition to the educational aspects, the teens participate in computer lessons, arts and crafts activities, cooking classes, field trips, volunteer events, and mixers with teens from other area housing authorities.
Bucking the trends
This summer Hoboken is very much the exception when it comes to extensive funding for teen summer employment. Just across the river in New York state the summer budget for teen jobs has been cut by $10 million to only $15 million. Last year the fund provided for nearly 20,000 jobs. Now, many education advocates believe that number could be cut nearly in half. Currently, these advocates are urging New York Gov. George Pataki to restore the funding in the 11th hour.
But the picture isn't much brighter outside the tri-state area. Nationally, only 42 percent of teenagers who are looking for work can expect to find it this summer, down from 52 percent in 2000, according to a recent study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. Between the summers of 2000 and 2003, 1.5 million fewer teens found work in 2003 than did in 2000, said the study.
Even with continued strong job growth over the next few months, teens will remain employed at rates considerably below those of the late 1980s and 1990s. The study added that the past two summers in particular have been the worst in nearly 60 years for teens looking for a little extra cash in the summer.
Economist Andrew Sum, who wrote the report, said that low summer employment rates of teens is largely attributable to high rates of labor underutilization rather than to a lack of interest in work.
"Effective summer jobs programs targeted toward youth with low employment prospects yield high net job creation effects at a reasonable cost, and well-designed and targeted programs can produce other desirable social outcomes, including less delinquency, improvements in high school students' literacy and work skills, and higher levels of public services," said Sum.